“He Is Gone”

I was Saturday night. My brothers, sister, and I had spent the day together. We’d cooked dinner, and were kicking back with a favorite comedy. Just as my sister and I were thinking about heading home, it happened.

“Oh, that’s a sad text message.”

My brother’s voice. I whipped my head up, looked at him, then rushed for my phone. I stared at the screen, waiting. My screen was blank. I hadn’t gotten it yet. Nothing … nothing … and there it was. A text message from my dad. Three words.

“He is gone.”

I stared at the screen. My eyes refused to blink. “He is gone.” We all knew this text was coming. Grandpa had been sick for a long time now. By this Christmas, he wasn’t feeling good enough to even get out of bed. One bad fall and a couple strokes later, the family member I admire most is gone from this earth.

MyFullSizeRender (14) grandpa was the most intelligent and determined man I’ve ever met. He earned a Master’s degree from Columbia, was an expert in his engineering field, and was passionate in his study of Scripture and theology. So much of what I value comes from him. Education. A tireless work ethic. An incredibly high value placed on family … and on faith.

I have so many memories of our time together when I was growing up. But the time for making new memories is over. Grandpa isn’t around here anymore.

He is gone.

It’s been two Sundays since the day we received that text. I have cried at church both Sundays, each time at the start of communion. It’s actually quite fitting — though I didn’t realize it until later — communion is all about death.

Or more precisely, it’s about how Jesus conquered death and took away it’s power. He faced pain, suffering and anguish in the most awful way — so that we’d never have to experience that. Because of him, death does NOT have to be the end.

Crying during communion is strange. (Not just because people are starting to stand up and walk towards the front, while I’m still in my chair wiping tears away.) It’s strange, because I rarely cry. My emotions generally don’t like to make themselves seen.

But this was different. It wasn’t the heartbroken, hopeless sort of crying. 

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The day after my Grandpa died, I was sitting in church. Next to my friend and her husband, then two other friends walked in and sat behind us. I felt so glad to be there. In my church I love, next to friends I love.

Our pastor began to introduce communion. He talked about trusting God, no matter what we were facing. Then he ended by posing a question. Jesus is asking, “Do you trust me?”

At that moment, the worship band began playing “Blessed Assurance.” And suddenly I was sobbing. In church. During communion.

Here’s the thing: the concept of assurance is something I struggled with a lot this summer. Am I sure? Even when others I admire and respect don’t agree? It’s not like there’s empirical proof I’m on the right path. How do I know?

After months of asking, praying, reading, researching, praying, begging God for clarity, I left this autumn with a powerful sense of peace. A feeling deep in my bones: that I don’t understand everything, but I don’t have to know it all. I just need to follow God. To put God at the center. To trust, and to live out that trust daily in how I act. And God will take care of me and explain things in God’s time.

192px-Lumijoki_Church_Communion_Cup_2006_07_26I don’t know if I’m articulating this well at all. I know it’s not infallible data or scientific proof. It’s not a bright flash of clarity or a light bulb moment, but a sense that developed slowly. Quietly and slowly. Each day a bit more clear, a bit more solid, a bit more certain. Until it felt more solid and certain than I’d ever realized.

This newfound sight probably doesn’t seem as deeply impactful as it feels. But after a summer of deep uncertainty, I feel more assured of God’s power and love than I ever have. To be broken down with doubt and rebuilt stronger: it was awful while it was happening, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Now, when I talk about how Grandpa is in heaven, it’s not because … you know, like, that’s the sort of thing you say when someone dies. I don’t just want to believe it. Or hope to believe it.

I believe it. Not just because my parents and church told me to. But because I’ve questioned, worried, searched … and felt God show up in profoundly meaningful ways.

Grandpa is gone from this earth. But God is not.

I have felt God’s presence so powerfully and tangibly. In the midst of death. I never expected to be surrounded by this much peace and hope.

 

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